A look back at the history of hits on NYC mob bosses
In the early 1930s, the notorious Charles “Lucky” Luciano established the modern American Mafia by creating “The Commission.”
It was a governing body through which the Five Families — the Lucchese, the Gambinos, the Genoveses, the Colombos and the Bonannos — could settle disputes together, forging truces that kept bloodshed to a minimum.
Sure, there were mob hits, but the violence was kept within families.
The most recent take-out of a boss, the slaying of Gambino head Paul Castellano at Sparks Steak House in 1985, was an inside job, the work of a brash young riser named John Gotti.
Since then, it’s been a relatively stable, quiet time for the Mafia — a three-decade run of bosses dying in bed or in prison, solely of natural causes. Until Wednesday night, when a dozen gunshots broke the silence of a quiet, affluent street in Staten Island.
In a brazen, high-level hit, an assassin in a blue pickup truck slaughtered Gambino crime boss Frank “Franky Boy” Cali, 53, steps from the brick mansion where his wife and young children were waiting for him inside.
Investigators are now on the watch for a new torrent of blood. “I would be surprised if there was no retaliation,” a former top federal prosecutor told The Post.
The first Italian mobsters in America were petty criminals from Sicily who landed in New Orleans in the late 1880s.
Over the next few decades, they gained a foothold in New York and other eastern cities — remaining a loose, unaligned assortment of street thugs.
The rivalries between the clans came to a head during the Castellammarese War of 1930-31, a battle for the title of “capo di tutti capi” — boss of all bosses — that left uncounted bodies dropped at poker tables, restaurants and offices in New York and Detroit.
One contender for the title, Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria had earned the nickname “The Man Who Can Dodge Bullets” after two slugs pierced his straw hat without hitting his head in the early ’20s.
He didn’t dodge the bullets that came on April 15, 1933, inside a Coney Island restaurant, Nuovoa.
Masseria shared a seafood feast, then cards and drinks, with Luciano. Leaving the table, he died in a hail of gunfire on his way to the men’s room. A grisly photo showed Masseria’s corpse on the restaurant floor, clutching a bloody ace of spades.
It was the Genovese boss Luciano who would mostly staunch the bloodshed by forging The Commission. “There hasn’t been a [mob] war . . . since the late ’20s, early ’30s,” says Selwyn Raab, author of “Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires.”
With The Commission in charge in the 1930s, sporadic carnage did continue, but only within families. Much of it still the stuff of mob legend.
That includes Albert Anastasia, the “Lord High Executioner” of Murder, Inc. and the most ruthless killer in mob history. Anastasia’s crew of contract killers, armed with revolvers, knives, ice picks and piano-wire garrotes, were linked to more than 60 murders.
On Oct. 25, 1957, he met his end in chair No. 4 at the lobby barbershop of the Park Sheraton Hotel on Seventh Avenue between 55th and 56th streets. “People started screaming,” former hotel worker Tony Karasis told The Post on the 50th anniversary of the hit.
The murder was ordered by rival mobster Vito Genovese. No one was charged in Anastasia’s murder but it was long believed that Joseph “Crazy Joe” Gallo was among those responsible.
It caught up to him in 1972. Gallo got what was coming to him when a gunman stormed into Umberto’s Clam House in Little Italy as he enjoyed a dish of scungilli.
Gallo, who was in the back of the restaurant with his bodyguard, new wife, stepdaughter and others, staggered out to the sidewalk and died.
Mob hit men often struck at restaurants. In 1979, Bonanno boss Carmine “Lilo” Galante was knocked out of his chair in a hail of bullets during lunch in the back yard of Joe and Mary’s Restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
One of the most iconic photographs from the gangland era, an overhead shot, shows Galante lying in a pool of his blood, his left eye blown out and with a still-smoking cigar in his mouth.
But the most notorious hit of all time would come six years later.
Constantino Paul Castellano never did get to enjoy that steak.
It was Dec. 16, 1985, and Castellano and his bodyguard were hungry after a meeting at their lawyer’s office — too hungry to find a proper parking space on East 46th Street.
The bodyguard, Thomas Bilotti, swung the Lincoln Continental into a “No Standing Zone” spot in front of Sparks Steak House and got out of the car.
Four men in trench coats and wearing Russian-style, black-fur hats came out of nowhere.
Castellano, 70, was struck a dozen times in the fusillade of bullets. Bilotti, 45, was struck four times. They were dead before the cops got to them.
Sammy “The Bull” Gravano was in the Lincoln with the future “Dapper Don” John Gotti, and the two watched the Castellano hit from behind the car’s tinted glass.
“We were looking down at Sparks Steak House,” Gravano would testify against Gotti in Brooklyn federal court seven years later.
“The shooters ran over to them, started shooting them,” he testified, noting how Gotti wanted the Lincoln pulled forward slowly for a closer look.
A major government crackdown on the mob in the ’80s and ’90s “took out the hierarchies in every family,” Raab says.
Locked out of their lucrative rackets — construction, garbage hauling, the garment center, the fish market — “they were wounded, but not fatally,” Raab says.
“They retreated to their caves, with a new philosophy: to get away from the flamboyance and outrageous actions of John Gotti.”
Instead, “They went back to what has always been their bread and butter rackets, which is drugs, illegal gambling and loan sharking and extortion.”
La Cosa Nostra adopted what Eric Seidel, a former federal organized-crime prosecutor in Manhattan, calls the mob’s “No hits, no headlines” rule.
It was an often-broken rule.
The Colombos, in particular, had been warring among themselves throughout the ’70s.
In the’ 90s, a battle over control of the family lasted two years, and left a dozen men dead.
Boss Carmine Persico was serving a 100-year prison term at the time but directed the carnage, and all other family business, from his cell.
“There have been spates of killings” since the Castellammarese War, notes Seidel.
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